Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I own a business and have a colleague who’s worked with me for ten
years. The business is 100% mine but she services half the clients,
performing specific tasks, usually after I’ve gotten them happily set up
and on a long-term trajectory. There’s one who’s been having
problems with her and keeps calling me. I’ve run interference, gotten
them communicating, and thought all was well. Then he showed up at
the office for a meeting with her, bringing along one of his assistants.
First he wanted to talk to me about my colleague (whose desk is right
next to mine), then wanted me to entertain/teach his assistant while
he had his meeting. I said politely,” You should talk to Greta directly,
and email both of us after if there’s still a problem”. Then I did the
babysitting, but was left wanting to fire him. I can get more money
from other people with far less drama and hassle. What should I say or
Dear Boss Lady:
As the boss you get to decide whom your clients are, who does what
tasks for which of them, and how communications about and with
unhappy clients should flow. Any intelligent client would know to email
you before appearing, if only to ask if there’s a time you could speak
confidentially. But note that for the insensitive showing up might have
been a ploy to send a message to your associate, as in I have direct
communication with your boss. Pulling rank and shaming are both bad
business techniques, regardless of one’s rank. You handled that part of
the problem perfectly.
As for the babysitting, here’s what to do the next time. Simply say
very politely, I’m under deadline for a different client. I wish I had
time to spend with your associate but I know that if I were under
deadline for you that you’d want me to give you my full attention.
She’s welcome to sit over there and work (indicating either a table or a
computer if you have a spare). As for firing a client, it’s always good to
have new ones in reserve. Perhaps better to raise his fees by a healthy
amount and then let him pay up or vote with his feet.